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USC Trojans vs. California Golden Bears Point Spread - Pick

USC Trojans (3-0 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. California Golden Bears (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS)
College Football Week 4
Date/Time: Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 3;30PM EST
Where: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, California

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: USC -16.5/CAL +16.5
Over/Under Total: 63.5

The USC Trojans come to Berkeley on Saturday to face the Cal Golden Bears in Pac-12 action. USC is coming off a dramatic double-overtime win over Texas on Saturday, overcoming a late Texas surge and getting a couple big plays to stave off what looked like near-certain defeat, 27-24. The win kept their CFP hopes alive, but they need to recover from a taxing game in time to make the trip up north to face a Cal Bears team that is now 3-0, coming off an impressive 27-16 win over a high-powered Ole Miss team. Bolstered by a strong second-half, Cal was able to get the win and might not be in as much of a rebuild-stage as some may have thought.

On one hand, fifth-ranked USC looked vulnerable in their win over Texas. The defense melted late, giving up a dramatic late touchdown to a true freshman quarterback and another one in overtime. The pass-rush evaporated over the course of the game and the Southern Cal defense got winded. The Trojans offense languished for a lot of the game. But after Texas went ahead late, Sam Darnold was left with 45 seconds and no timeouts and was able to get the job done with a big assist from freshman walk-on place kicker Chase McGrath, who was big late. The defense, which gave up some big plays late, was able to force a turnover in double overtime, with defensive lineman Christian Rector stripping the ball from the quarterback in a great game-changing play. The struggle was damning in a sense, but maybe pulling through massive struggles like that are what will give the Trojans an edge later in the season when it really counts.

QB Sam Darnold is a tremendous asset for the Trojans. He has a touch of magic, as he showed this past week in almost going the distance in 45 seconds with no timeouts with the game on the line. He can be a little adventurous and in three games so far this season, he has thrown 6 interceptions. One of them was returned for a touchdown against Texas. He is a tremendous pocket passer, while also extremely dangerous when on the move. He is working well with Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell, Jr., both of whom made big plays in salvaging the win on Saturday. Darnold can really see the field and is cunning with his eyes, often throwing off defenses. The offensive line was beaten a lot on Saturday by a good Longhorns defensive line. They weren't able to spring the run-game, with Ronald Jones, II. and exciting freshman Stephen Carr kept in check. The Texas defense matched up well with USC and made them look mortal. This group should be considerably better this week.


The USC defense was doing well for most of the game. Until late in the 4th, they had held Texas to a field goal, with the other 7 Texas points having come on a defensive touchdown. The lack of clutch in letting Texas take the lead late and almost win the game in overtime was concerning. But when the Longhorns were poised to score another overtime touchdown, the defense stepped up, with the Rector strip-fumble. The secondary played well for most of the game. Marvell Tell is the playmaker of the group so far this season, while Jack Jones has been great in coverage, though not so much late against Texas. Both had picks against the Longhorns. The front was impressive for much of the game and rendered the Texas' run game basically moot. And in defense of this group, they are banged up.

Cal was resourceful against Ole Miss on Saturday, not losing composure after falling behind 16-7 at the half in a low-scoring game for two teams that can put points up in a hurry. The Cal offense started waking up in the second half, with quarterback Ross Bowers connecting with Kanawai Noa and Vic Wharton, III. WR Demetris Robertson is questionable to return this week. Emerging Patrick Laird ran for a touchdown, with Vic Enwere adding some useful runs along the way. The season-ending loss of RB Tre Watson hurts, but the rise of Laird softens it. They might not have the all-out aerial flair they had in the last handful of seasons with Jared Goff and then Davis Webb behind center, but under first-year coach Justin Wilcox, they look have quickly found a new identity and at 3-0 with wins over North Carolina and Ole Miss, Cal is in a lot better spot than a lot of people thought would be the case.

It's not often that people have said this in recent seasons, but the Cal defense was tremendous. After Ole Miss was running an air show the first few weeks of the season, they got grounded in Berkeley on Saturday. Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson might have put up yards, but Cal held them scoreless in the second half, which is a major feat, while picking him off three times. One such time, with Ole Miss trying to mount a drive for the potential go-ahead score, linebacker Cameron Goode returned it for a touchdown for the backbreaker. Safety Jaylinn Hawkins and LB Devante Downs also had picks.

Cal might be catching USC at the right time, at least in terms of a possible cover. Last season, the Trojans covered the spread at the Rose Bowl in a 45-24 win. That was when Southern Cal was on a big old roll, looking as good as any team in the country. They don't look like that at the moment. They used a lot of magic and energy to escape the Texas game with a win and might not be at their best. But when you think that, of course they suddenly will revert to their peak form. It's an inexact science to say the least, but we see the Golden Bears hanging on late for the cover at home.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the California Golden Bears plus 16.5 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Trojans vs. Golden Bears game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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